So there might be a slight problem with my business plan.

Dear friends,

I spent some time Saturday working on the Magpie Quilts product line. Here’s a photo of an idea I had for quilted key rings:


Each has coordinating fabric on the front and back with free-form, rustic stitching, and a one-word affirmation. (The bright green “love” ring is tongue-in-cheek given that the fabric features tennis balls.)

I spent about two hours working through construction problems. Now that I’ve figured out most of the issues, I estimate that I could produce them assembly-line style (rather than one at a time, as these were) and crank out 20 or so in about an hour.

There is 75 cents of materials in each and I’m thinking of selling them for $6.50. Too much? Imagine admiring a quilt, priced between $200 and $300 and thinking you’re not quite ready to pull the trigger, so you grab a $6.50 keyring on impulse.

Yes or no?

Whether you think my marketing approach is sound or not, the “slight” problem with my business strategy is that none of the keyrings I sewed on Saturday made it into my inventory closet. I mailed them all to friends. I couldn’t help myself. In the business, I think this is known as inventory “leakage.” If I were any kind of boss I would fire myself.

I think the point is that the revenue from Magpie Quilts is supposed to fund the Unaquilter’s postal habit. I might have to hire Mr. Mom as head of security.  Either that, or I need a product line that’s harder to pilfer.

So I’m off — to the factory dining room table right now to work on a framing idea. Frames are a pain to mail. Maybe they’ll stay put in the inventory closet.

With gratitude {for faith, joy and love — and the keyrings that proclaim them},

Joan, whose skeptical husband thinks $5.00 is the right price and encourages his favorite entrepreneur not to be greedy

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas.

Dear friends,

I spent my evenings last week putting up the new Christmas tree in the Den and spreading a little holiday cheer around the house.

The tree is loaded with all our favorite ornaments:


The mantle is festooned:


And the buffet is adorned with my Grandmother’s Santa Mug collection:


I’ve got more than a dozen large totes of Christmas decorations. Given that I limited myself to a single tree, the mantle, and the buffet, I think I showed considerable restraint. (I also sent a tote with Kate so she could decorate her college apartment even though I know I’ll have to haul it home for the summer). Gone are the days when it looks like the Macy’s Christmas Store exploded in every room of my home.

Now all I need to do is buy a handful of additional gifts and get to wrapping. I gave up on the whole holiday card thing years ago. I’m deeply appreciative of those folks who take the time to send them, but in an era of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and blogging, there’s really not anyone who desires to keep up with us who can’t do so electronically. I don’t know if I’ve succumbed to the forces of modernity or indolence, but I’ve succumbed.

And, finally, I made reservations for our family at our favorite restaurant for Christmas Eve. I’ll cook on Christmas Day, but our family has always celebrated both occasions and last year I decided I didn’t really have to prepare two lavish spreads in less than 12 hours. The impulse to do it all has faded, thank goodness.

So that’s it. My list is checked twice and the stockings are hung with care. It’s starting to look and feel a lot like Christmas.

With gratitude {for a season of maternal maturity when Christmas can feel like relaxed contentment},

Joan, who’d love to tell you all about the cool tradition she decided to start this year but is still keeping it a surprise from Kate and Parker, who are known to read her blog now and then, so she must keep her lip zipped until after Christmas

A tip o’ the hat.

Dear friends,

Guess what’s swarming all over Manhattan?


Fedoras, Boaters, Panamas, Newsboys, Buckets, Berets, every kind of hat imaginable can be seen on men and women of all ages and all styles across the Big Apple.

If I had a buck for every time I turned to Kate during our trip to New York City and declared “I wish I had a HAT!” I could buy . . . well . . .  a hat.

I adore hats though I rarely wear them, save the occasional ball cap worn while canoeing down the river or a Coach rain hat I bought on deep discount and pull out during inclement weather. I try on hats every chance I get, but something always stops me from making the actual purchase.

Here’s one I’ve owned since Kate was a child.

I wore this hat one time. To Kate’s T-ball game in 1999. As I sat in the stands cheering her on, a small child playing nearby wandered over to me and asked “Why are you wearing that hat?”

“Because it’s hot,” I replied. “And I like it.”

“I don’t,” the young girl said very matter-of-factly before wandering off to write her name in the dirt.

I haven’t worn the hat since, though not because of that child’s withering criticism, but because it doesn’t fit particularly well and tends to fly off my head in the slightest breeze.

I keep vowing to buy and wear a fashionable hat and I keep failing to do so. Somehow I think middle-age women wearing hats in Midwestern small towns are a half-step away from crazy cat ladies in the minds of most people. But in New York . . . man would I have been in style.

For a glimpse of the vast array of hats I spotted during my trip to NYC, take a look at Bill Cunningham’s video essay from the New York Times. Bill’s a marvelous observer of style and I watch his segments often.  And who knows . . . maybe you’ll be inspired to buy a hat and I can live vicariously through you.

Bill Cunningham’s hats, hats and more hats.

With gratitude {for my sweet traveling companion who told me I looked lovely in every single hat I tried on during our trip},

Joan, who’s mustering up the courage to buy and/or wear a fashion hat before 2012 ends